Monday, August 20, 2007

The Main Event

It happened.

Cramps ramped up almost out of nowhere yesterday afternoon. I was bleeding by eight pm and cramps and bleeding worsened until after midnight. And then it really got started. We didn't make it to lights out until four in the morning.

I was in full miscarriage-labor for about three hours, complete with out of body visualizations and spontaneous breathing exercises and, in the last hour, vomiting. Not to mention blood and plenty of it. Oh yeah. And pain. Yup. There was a long period where I could barely opened my eyes, because I needed to stay internally focused in order to cope. J~, loyally constant at my side, struggled to keep his open too, though for much more benign reasons (in other words: he was tired).

In my mind's eye during the worst moments, I saw a cloud of blue-green, an undersea bleariness. Focusing on the color, I urged whatever life-ishness that might still exist within me to swim out. Swim! I thought. And in my less graceful moments this helpful encouragement became a much more desperate: Get out of me, now.

The whole experience was much more intense than the last two times.

Also unlike the last two, unlike my sister-in-law's, unlike any of the growing circle of stories I've heard about miscarriages as early as this one (which stopped developing at 7.5 weeks, though it was one day shy of twelve when it actually happened) the tissue that finally sprung out through my cervix (and that's really how it felt, like it popped out) resembled an actual creature: An off-white tadpole on its way to albino frog. An inch-long, larval salamander, with a long tale and a shorter umbilicus, a narrow torso with the tiniest miniature sprouts of arms and legs, and eyes like sharp black pencil dots at the sides of its large, pale, salamander head.

I collected it in a plastic container, which J~ interred in the refrigerator until the light of day, when he took it in his lunch cooler to the hospital lab for genetic analysis. It is hard to think that my child, my albeit freakish amphibian not-yet baby, will now be cut up like a science experiment. No, not like a science experiment, but truly, actually, as a for-real science project.

Hope we get some answers.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Limboland. In Other Words: Life

J~ is back at work, B~ is back at his mom's for one last week before gearing up for eighth grade. As for me: still no bleeding. Barely anything that can qualify as a cramp.

I've begun taking phone calls. Some phone calls. A few. I'm not quite ready for normal life, its pace and rhythms and distractions. In another world, another time, I would be dressed in black, head shaved. My mourning would be visible to all. People who can't cope with grief would know to keep their distance.

On the other hand, there is a Phoenix rising from these ashes. I'm not all gloom and doom. In fact, I'm looking into applying to graduate school, and that excites me somewhat. And J~ and I are hopeful about our long term future, with or without a child together. We've done the math: Shortly after B~ graduates high school, for instance, the house will be paid off, J~ will have enough years under his belt to earn a small pension and continued good health insurance for life. We could both work part-time and have leisure to do some traveling. Or we could start a business together (that's another category of fantasy we lose ourselves in occasionally). And if I get that degree and find something lucrative that I love, a tenured teaching position, perhaps, he could quit working altogether for a while, or go back to school himself, or volunteer. We won't be rich, but we won't be destitute either. (Then again, if we had a child, we'd have more time to enjoy it...)

But I can no longer keep this question, Babies or Not, at center stage. Though truly, who am I kidding? Haven't I said this before? Until I no longer menstruate, it will never quite leave the stage entirely. As it is, dressed in red, flailing about, it will not quit diverting my attention. I accept that. It's biological. It's emotional. It's part of me. As much as I wish I was done with it, as much as it reduces me to tears to think we could go through another miscarriage, I can't quite close the door on trying again, on ever being someone's biological mother.

Thanks, by the way, to all of you who've reached out to me. I feel your words, your hearts, buoying me up, and it means a lot. As long as this question is relevant in my life, as long as you are interested, dear readers, I will keep you posted.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Hole

No bleeding at all yet, almost no cramps.

J~ is getting better, planning to go back to work on Monday, though he will rush home if I need him. B~ will be around for the weekend, starting tomorrow.

We went to the beach in Rhode Island on Tuesday, J~ and I, walked for miles away from the crowd at Watch Hill toward the crowd at Misquamicut. In between, nothing but wind and sun and the surf's deep breathing, and me, finally, opening my mouth. "As much as I'd like to push myself to be done, I have to admit, I'm not done yet."

"Yeah," he nods. He feels the same.

It is hard for us, at this point, to say, No more, although it seems it would be a relief if we could. I know the chances are not good at this point, taking into consideration my three-in-a-row miscarriages, my age, my unwillingness to hop myself up on supplemental hormones, but how can I stop trying? And yet, how can I possibly bear another loss? So far there are four: four children I have grieved, having never seen a face, never held a one. The only presumably viable life of the lot, the first, ended because I chose to end it. I have to live with that.

And yet, if there was a magic pill to guarantee a healthy child, I'm not sure I could bring myself to take it. It seems like a no-brainer, but it is not. I don't trust that I would be adequately supported, that my love for a baby would outweigh the burden of the work, of putting myself, my own selfish pleasures and pursuits, on the back burner. But this does not reduce the grief. It only twists it. It makes me wonder if somehow, subconsciously, I am influencing the demise of these pregnancies, if I am at fault.

No amount of rational, scientific reason can dissuade me of this fear. It is torturous.

On the day of the final ultrasound, we spent some hours with family who only addressed our bad news in hushed asides. There were children around. It seemed inappropriate to speak openly, or for me to cry. My brother tried to crack jokes, to make me smile. "I don't want to be cheered up," I interrupted, "but you can hug me whenever you want." He puts one arm around me briefly, but that was the end of it. My father insisted on snapping pictures of J~ and I. "Please don't" I said, "I'm not in the mood." "Too late!" he quipped, grinning. "Feel better," he said to me later, in lieu of good bye. My mother reiterated her offer to help, whatever we need. But what do we need? We need love. We need flowers. We need cards. We need condolences. We need room to grieve, witnesses to our grief, sharers in the burden of it. These are not easy things to ask for. Or to receive.

When J~'s neck hurt too much, I was relieved to go home. In the car, we were both sad, surprised at how alone we felt amidst family, that only the women (two of three - the third said nothing at all acknowledging the loss) asked how I felt, though there were in-depth discussions of J~'s surgery and its aftermath.

The phone rings. After too many conversations that made me feel worse, I can no longer bring myself to answer. It is as if this loss is carving a hole into me, exposing a lifetime of hurts. People don't know what to say, so they ask questions. Even the ones who say all the right things are no help. I don't have it in me to make any more reports.

But there is something good about this solitary process. It is a cleansing; it is a purge. For example: In the shower this morning, I found myself thinking of A~, my first husband, who admitted before deciding to marry me, that he feared that such a union would bind him to me for eternity. To him, this was a nightmare. And yet, though even then, I suspected he only did so out of fear of leaving, I felt lucky that he chose to stay.

It hurts that I spent so many years clinging to him, believing I could do no better. I am indignant that my self-esteem was so little nurtured, that I was left vulnerable to this kind of thinking.

Ultimately, I feel good to be shedding all of this old pain, fortified to be angry. I get it now: I deserved better! I always have deserved better. And right now, I deserve better than this motherhood limbo.

And so, I am willing to be opened up emotionally, carved out, emptied, forged into something stronger. Maybe, at the end of all this, I could welcome that magic pill after all, or walk away from it unequivocally, head high.

Eventually, I will answer the phone.

For now, I am here. Where ever that is.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Verdict is In

As soon as J~ started feeling better, I started feeling worse -- emotionally, anyway. Nausea faded two days ago, cramps began, and I knew it. I knew it.

We went for an ultrasound yesterday, and sure enough: no heartbeat.

I won't be taking any drugs to help this along. And I won't be submitting to any surgical procedure.

It's just a matter of time.